The amazing true story behind the siege of America's favorite beer company
How did InBev, a Belgian company controlled by Brazilians, take over one of America's most beloved brands after barely a whimper of a fight? Timing, and some unexpected help from powerful members of the Busch dynasty, the very family that had run the company for more than a century.
In Dethroning the King, the award-winning financial journalist who led coverage of the takeover for the Financial Times details how the drama that unfolded at Anheuser-Busch in 2008 went largely unreported as the world tumbled into a global economic crisis second only to the Great Depression. Today, as the dust settles, questions are being asked about how the "King of Beers" was so easily captured by a foreign corporation, and whether the company's fall mirrors America's dwindling financial and political dominance.
From the very heart of America's heartland to the European continent to Brazil, Dethroning the King is the ultimate corporate caper and a fascinating case study that's both wide-reaching and profound.
Amazon.com Exclusive: Q & A with Author Julie MacIntosh
What was the most startling piece of information you came across during your interviews and research for Dethroning the King?
Two things shocked me, actually. I had heard about the rough relationship between August Busch III and his son, August Busch IV, but the rumors hadn’t prepared me for the reality of the situation on the ground in St. Louis. They had a huge blowup over whether to buy a top-of-the-line private jet not long after August IV became CEO, when they should have been figuring out how to save Budweiser. The company’s board of directors got stuck trying to mediate their arguments, and I doubt that had been in their job descriptions. I was also surprised at how close Anheuser-Busch came to merging with Modelo to try to save itself, and at how that all ultimately fell apart. I had covered this deal as a journalist and had known the whole time that the two companies were talking, but I hadn’t known they were just inches from the finish line.
Did you run into any hurdles as you worked to uncover everything that happened behind the scenes?
I wasn’t worried about getting access to key people on Wall Street who were involved in the takeover. I’d known many of them for years. But I was nervous about the reception I’d get from insiders at Anheuser-Busch. I figured the relationship between August III and August IV would be the toughest thing to explore because people had been so closed-mouthed about it in the past, but that was one of the angles my sources were the most eager to talk about. Those two guys are fascinating characters, and I think the people who had witnessed some of their more outrageous moments felt they deserved to be brought to light as part of the story. I got the sense, in general, that this book was a chance for catharsis for some people. The way it all went down is just too fascinating to sweep under the rug with the rest of the mess from the economic crash.
Is this the story of The Busch family dynasty imploding? If so, in what way?
It depends on how you look at it. Adolphus Busch might roll over in his grave if he knew Budweiser was being brewed by Brazilians. But the Busch family hadn’t actually controlled Anheuser-Busch for years – many people just thought they still did. Some family members made hundreds of millions of dollars on this deal. They’re so rich now that it’s almost incomprehensible. That’s not a bad consolation prize.
Was the takeover inevitable? And what are the implications now that such a beloved American icon is being run by a foreign company?
If Anheuser-Busch hadn’t arrogantly ignored what was going on in the rest of the world, it wouldn’t have been inevitable. But the company focused far too heavily on America, as if this is the only place where people drink beer. Now, thousands of workers have lost their jobs, beer prices are higher, and you have a bunch of Brazilians running around in Missouri. The company has even started charging for Clydesdale appearances. That Bud Light you drank last weekend was brewed by a Brazilian number-cruncher. The big question is whether that actually matters in a globalized world.